A message from Brazil for Sean Penn

Good luck to the boys and girls from Brazil who made a movie. They want Sean Penn to pop down for the premier. And why not? Ariel, you’re an inspiration.

Vem Sean Penn.

Looking for Suffering in All the Wrong Places

People with disabilities inspire fear and disgust in the able-bodied because they seem to suggest the limits to this promise. But research shows a dramatic difference between non-disabled people’s perception of the quality of life of people with disabilities and the way people with disabilities describe themselves.

That’s a quote from an article that’s a bit longer, on HuffPo Religion, by Rachel Adams. Full article is here and it’s really worth a read. Thoughtful, perceptive, pulling no punches and clarifying, certainly for me, some elementary stuff that we sometimes need reminding about, especially in this big world of normals.

A girl speaks out for her brother about ‘retarded’

Thanks Regan. Your brother and you are clearly a wonderful pair of people. And thanks to Max’s mum for tweeting the link. Without whom etc. 🙂

Miles from home

Look at the beam of orange light towards the right side of the picture. A tiny bit further than halfway down, there’s a speck. Don’t try to brush it off. That’s home, when you point your camera at Earth from 3, 762,136,324 miles away. It was taken by Voyager 1 just before it travelled beyond the edge of our system, sometime in 1990. Carl Sagan, genius astronomer and astrophysicist, wrote about it with much more penetrating elegance than I could.

‘From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Look again at that dot. That’s here, that’s home, that’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam. The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.’

It seems foolish to hate someone because of the colour of their skin, or how they get on their knees to pray, or who they want to love, or whether they’re going to need more time to catch up because they’re slower at some things. Yet we continue to do all these things, these things that sap the tiny battery that we each are given, and are beyond fortunate to get.

When I grow up I want to be like Kerry Hincka

I’m an advertising copywriter. I write ads. Radio ads. Posters. TV ads. Stuff on websites. Cars. Lawnmowers. Toothpaste. Tomato ketchup. It’s a very self-absorbed world most of the time. Sometimes we fool ourselves that what we do isn’t just selling stuff: it’s art.

It’s never art.

Or let me say almost never. Sometimes, some incredibly rare, uncynical times, people like me can actually transcend the grubby little sales messages behind most of what we do and reach our fingertips just a bit higher, to touch the place where the fairy dust gathers on the highest shelf. The people who put the ad below together did that. They had outstanding material to work with, granted, but they did their homework and they put together an advertisement, on behalf of one of the biggest companies in the world, that reflects something good and true, and for this one time only I do not feel like I can see the sales message behind it.

I’ve woven myself a little tale, that the better natures of everyone involved with the advert slipped free from the boardroom and the creative department in the ad agency when they were touched by the pure, driven love of Kerry Hincka, Molly’s mother.

Aimee Richardson: Punky Down syndrome media star

Who  needs imaginary friends? Check out the wonderful Aimee Richardson, a busy young woman who’s even got a cartoon character, Punky. (Well ok, Punky was at one time only imaginary, and lived in the imagination of Lindsay Jane Sedgwick, but she’s become pretty real in the meantime.)

Aimee, the voice of Punky

Punky, the face of Aimee

Aimee’s multi-talented, inspirational and breaking down barriers just because she’s being herself and doing normal things in normal land amongst the normals. That’s not disparaging – you know what I mean.

She was interviewed by Brendan O’Connor for The Saturday Show last night. Overlook the cringiest faux pas of the show’s host (dad to a Ds baby, btw), who’s got four left feet at times, but give him credit for getting Aimee on primetime TV. Ignore the fact that his questions are too full on and he doesn’t really give her a chance, but revel in her quirkier little orneryisms. She’s raising the bar for all of us; an inspiration for what anyone with Down syndrome can achieve.

Zip forward to 23 mins approximately to get to her segment. You’ll find it – for as long as the TV channel holds it online – here. And below is a recent article by Aimee from The Sunday Times.



Down Syndrome, Robert Capa and Big Picture Happiness

Adman Dave Trott recently brought the story of photographer Robert Capa (1913-1954) to my attention. The opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan (some here) is often cited as the best war ‘footage’ ever shot. The WWII D-Day landing was recreated here in Ireland, on a Wexford beach, but you’d never know that. Its realism is stunning, and it’s all based around photos shot by Capa. He took 108 pictures in all, and he went through hell to get them.

His was one of the first landing craft to get torn into by heavily fortified German gunners. 100 long yards from shore the soldiers had to disembark and face near certain death. Ramps came down and they jumped in to wade ashore, with nightmare, heavy strides. Capa somehow made it and took as many pictures as he could before dragging himself onto the first available landing craft that was returning to sea and safety. He made it back alive from the unforgettable butchery on Omaha beach with three precious rolls of film that he had risked everything for.

Back in London he took the film to the offices of Life Magazine, where a 15 year old lab assistant had set the drier’s heating controls too high. The emulsion on the film melted, and ninety eight of Capa’s pictures melted with it.

Here are three of the ten that survived.

Frying pan to fire. Can you imagine the anguish Capa felt when he heard the news? He’d already been through a nightmare, and suddenly 90% of the reason for it was carelessly obliterated. Then again, maybe that didn’t matter to him so much. I’m not sure what the percentage of loss was on the beach that day, but it was horrifically high. It was living and breathing and then it wasn’t.

Maybe Capa was very philosophical about it. I hope so. Because that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was built on a much greater tragedy. I like to think that he was amazed with the ten surviving pictures. They guaranteed his fame anyway. They captured everything that needed to be captured about the horror of it all. Other people, like Spielberg, had no problem filling in the gaps.

Why do we let the little events overwhelm the big ones? I do it all the time. Mired in the details of everyday living, I don’t step back to see the whole picture, at least not enough. It’s so much easier to get mad about something petty and have a hot flush over nothing than to actually stop for a minute and be grateful. For one minute! An important resolution for me in the coming year is to try to do that. To step outside of the cares, worries and important crap that we all have to deal with, and in that minute be grateful for the moment.

Nobody owes us anything, and yet we all too often end up with a damaged or frustrated sense of entitlement, when really the odds of us ever being alive are so phenomenally slim that we should spend 24/7 in awestruck amazement. Never mind running water and a roof and bin men who collect the rubbish every week: that this tiny little ball in a tiny little solar system in a third-rate galaxy stuck out on the edge of nothing should have managed to produce the conditions where we could come into being, enjoy the air and the sunlight and the taste of vanilla ice cream and the feel of warm grass underfoot and the gift of communicating with each other on an emotional level is AWESOME!

But we don’t think about it so much. The mortgage or the school report or the visa bill or the fighting kids or the sciataca or that stupid neighbour who did that thing that you’ll never forget just get in the way.

So when I read the Robert Capa D-Day story, it got me thinking instantly about Jacob. Outsiders often think that he’s missing something huge. That a whole bunch of his photos just won’t ever come out. But every day he makes me see the big picture. It vanishes too quickly, whenever his brothers start to argue like howler monkeys over the Wii, or something goes wrong at work, or we argue, but it still happens. The ten photos that our Jacob has developed are extraordinary. Each one of them IS the big picture. And having him here to slow down that minute and prod me into savouring it is where I get the lucky break, and the people who feel like we got massively, randomly unlucky are missing the point.

Jacob’s mam tried to gently correct a kindly, misguided, sympathising old lady in town just this Saturday, ‘Oh, he’s not any kind of cross to bear at all, really, no.’ But she knew that the old lady didn’t understand. I suppose that’s what happens when you think all your photos got developed.